March 2nd, 2014
11:26 AM ET
9 years ago

Lawmakers call for suspension of Russia from G8, swift action against Putin

(CNN) - As the crisis in Ukraine escalates, with Russian troops moving into the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, U.S. lawmakers are pushing for decisive action against Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the violence in the region and respect Ukraine's independence.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sens. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, made the case for congressional sanctions and a suspension of Russian membership in the G8 and G20.

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Obama's warning

Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there needs to be more than threats coming from the White House, and called President Barack Obama “weak and indecisive” on matters of foreign policy.

"No. 1, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators - it is not your strong suit. Every time the President goes on national television and threatens Putin or someone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine,” Graham said.

"How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G8 and the G20, at least for a year, starting right now. And for every day they stay in the Crimea, add to the suspension. Do something,” he added.

Durbin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, defended Obama's calls for Putin to pull back Russian forces in Crimea, an autonomous region of eastern Ukraine with strong loyalty to neighboring Russia, and agreed that suspending Russian membership in the G8 is "the right thing to do."

In a 90-minute phone call with Putin over the weekend, Obama condemned the Russian leader's actions in Crimea, saying that Putin is in violation of international law, according to the White House. The White House said it would suspend participation in preparatory meetings for the G8 summit that will bring world leaders together in June in Sochi, Russia.

“The U.S. calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine,” according to the White House statement. Senior White House officials say the administration is considering a wide range of possible economic and diplomatic measures against Russia.

Durbin: U.S. needs to ‘draw a line’

International pressure on Russia mounted as leaders from the EU and the UK joined an international outcry over the escalation of violence in the region. On the domestic front, Durbin and Graham said that there are actions Congress can take to show Putin his use of military force is unacceptable.

"We've got to make it clear to Putin that if there are Russian-speaking people on the soil of another nation, that doesn't give him license to invade, to protect them when there is no obvious threat against them,” Durbin said. "What Congress has to do, what the Senate has to do quickly is a resolution condemning what Putin has done.”

The Illinois Democrat said that Russia's "charm offensive," dumping billions of dollars into the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, has done little to redefine the nation's image among Western nations.

"That Sochi charm offensive died on the streets of Sevastopol (Ukraine) when he moved in thousands of troops days after the closing ceremony. He is trying to have it both ways," Durbin said. "We've got to make him feel like there is a price to pay for this kind of conduct."

Graham said the U.S. needs to make clear to countries surrounding Russia its resolve to take action against Putin and accelerate the admission of neighboring countries, like Georgia and Moldova, into NATO.

"I would like to create a democratic noose around Putin's Russia," Graham said.

Graham: 'Iranians are watching'

How the U.S. handles the situation developing in Russia is key to the Obama administration's credibility in other international crises like the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, he said.

"The Iranians are watching. If we do not decisively push back and make them weaker and all of our friends in the region stronger, the Iranians are going to misunderstand, yet again, (that) we mean it regarding their nuclear program," Graham said.

Iran is in the process of rolling back parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions as a part of a temporary agreement to curb the country's nuclear ambitions appears. Talks between international leaders continue to forge a long-term agreement.

"So much is at stake," Graham added. "Putin is on the wrong side of history. He is on the wrong side of the law. Make him pay a price. The Ukrainian people are dying for their freedom - I hope we will stand with them."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Dick Durbin • Lindsey Graham • Russia • TV-State of the Union • Ukraine • Vladimir Putin
soundoff (689 Responses)
  1. Juan Pablo

    We are trillions in debt invading Iraq, Afghanistan and overthrowing Lybia and soon to be Syria. All wasting precious lives and creating terrorist safe havens. The people in DC are idiots to keep making the same mistakes, but they will. When we have a Greek collapse maybe they will start to worry about our own people and our own borders.

    March 2, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. Hugh Harvey

    All those people doing the bad talking and serving on the Senate Armed Forces Committee never served a day, neither has their children or grandchildren. If you are a Republican you get ahead with hot air not service to this country.

    March 2, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Kris

    when red lines are drawn, and not enforced, you lose credibility

    March 2, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. CapeCod

    Connie: If you remember Bush and WMD's in Iraq then you must remember how Clinton, Kerry, Pelosi and others talked about the Iraq threat and WMD's BEFORE Bush was elected.....


    March 2, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Jerry Schull

    The war mongers, Graham and McCain need to shut-up. They should do their job and let the President, who is elected to do that job, do it.

    Getting us into yet another conflict is NOT what Obama was elected to do. He told the American People he would get us out of needless wars.

    Oh, and BTW, exactly where will Graham and McCain get the dollars to fight another war? They keep rattling the sabers, and that is exactly where we will be.

    March 2, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Charlotte

    Graham is grossly irresponsible verging on treasonous. And how much you want to bet if the President DID opt for military action, he'd slam him for it. But first and foremost if anything is going to be done Congress – yes, including rethugliwads, needs to raise a WAR TAX. And this should hit corporations and rich folks as hard as anyone else. You can be assured that most of the warmongering on both sides is being driven by large corporate interests. Must terrify Haliburton to think that we'd actually be not-at-war for a spell. Dig deep enough and you'll find bloodstains up to the Koch Brothers' armpits.

    March 2, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Miami 305

    Why graham open his mounth about the president why can he stand by his president .im a independent I think the president Obama doing a great job. They should put some sanctions on Putin and revoke all Russian politician visa we don't need nazi the way I mean tough sanction ..

    March 2, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  8. David

    A bunch of lefts are crowded here. Obama is the worse president of all times. Remember drawing those red lines and let Putin jumped in to save faces? This president is so embarrassed at whome a bunch of losers on this boards are blindly worshipping

    March 2, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. Stuart Weinstein

    Once again the republicans demonstrate they have no respect for anyone but themselves.

    I guess they're upset that we are not at DEFCON1.

    God help us if these jokers ever recapture the Senate of the Presidency

    March 2, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. z8k8

    Why wait Graham or McCain, you can immediately pass a resolution to support a military actions our president can take, as did the Russian parliament.
    It will untied the administrations hands greatly if congresses passes a war resolution against Syria, Iran and Russia immediately.
    Why yep and not act ?

    March 2, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    As far as I can see the Russians are not responsible for any bloodshed. The same cannot be said for the west who are guilty of stirring up violence in Ukraine to further their imperialistic ambitions.

    March 2, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. Mike

    "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
    "Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people."
    "Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century."

    These are quotes from G. W. Bush the last time Putin "protected Russians" by invading and annexing parts of Georgia in 2008. Bush did exactly what the GOP now faults Obama for – all talk and no action!

    P.S. For the GOP base – the Georgia in question is a country in Europe, not a state in the US.

    March 2, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. george paralolo

    "How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G8 and the G20, at least for a year, starting right now..."

    and Vlade rolled his eyes too

    March 2, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. Alex von Orm

    Palin is still looking in a map to see if she can find Ucrania 🙂

    March 2, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Andrew

    As far as I can see Russia is not responsible for any bloodshed. The same cannot be said of the west who are guilty of stirring up violence in Ukraine to further their imperialistic ambitions.

    March 2, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  16. Devon

    Although I think Obama is weak because he caters to the left (instead of common sense) I certainly hope he doesn't suddenly get courageous and Strong with Russia.

    March 2, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Average Joe Democratic Voter

    I'm not fond of the GOP, and I voted for the current guy (oops, ask me what happened to my health insurance) and I understand what some people here say about congress standing together with the prez at a time like this, HOWEVER, it looks like we have Jimmy Carter 2. Pandering to the feely touchy left with Nancy Pelosi at your side is not the way to run an empire - I don't know what they call grapefruits in Russian, but Putin has a pair and you can't go up against someone like that with the a bunch of guys in loafers on San Francisco's Castro Street.

    March 2, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. Robert

    And if there were a Republican in office doing exactly the same thing, it'd be fine with you, Lindsey, right? Right. That's what I thought. Blah blah blah.

    Now let's talk about where you stood on the Iraq invasion... There's a country with no ethnic ties to us, a made up story about WMD, and we're good to go for full-scale invasion. Wait, that's even LESS of a reason than the Russians are using.

    March 2, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. John

    Obama is a wimp. No experience at all. He does not have a clue!

    March 2, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  20. Phil

    Sounds to me like McCain and Graham are aiding the enemy with these negative assertions about Obama during this very tense period of brinksmanship.

    March 2, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  21. stevetall

    Lindsay Graham, the poster child of knee-jerk, inappropriate action. Settle down, buddy. You haven't done much of anything lately, so maybe you should ease yourself into action instead of being in such a hurry to shoot yourself in the foot again!

    March 2, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. iangate

    Let's be honest, The U. S. has zero moral authority to talk to anyone about invading anywhere.

    March 2, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Ed

    Once again, Republicans put politics before foreign policy decisions. Pathetic.

    March 2, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Gerald Kendrick

    It is absolutely sickening to hear the arm chair quarterbacks in the GOP disparage and second guess this POTUS at every turn. Weak and indecisive are not adjectives that come to mind when I think of President Obama. They do however apply to Senator Graham, along with sycophantic, immoral and traitorous.

    March 2, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. sick of republican phonies

    I could just imagine this little milquetoast joke from South Carolina in front of the camera, threatening Putin in a voice that sounds like Truman Capote after he took a darvon..maybe he'd wag his finger to show he meant business.

    March 2, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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